How to strengthen your glutes
The glutes are arguably one of the most important muscles in your body, which is why many professional athletes spend so much time thinking about how to lift, sculpt and train them. But, the glutes are commonly overlooked in many conditioning exercises. Why? Because many people spend most of their time sitting, which causes the glutes not to activate during basic motions they were designed to do, like hinge, run, squat, and lunge.
Since the glutes have forgotten how to contract during hip motion, all of the stress is placed into the knees. This can cause you to leave your lower body workouts or cardio sessions feeling weaker and in pain. For example, traditionally, when you run, the glutes hold your pelvis, extend your hip, propel you forward, and keep your legs, pelvis, and torso aligned. But when your glutes are not activated, your entire kinetic chain gets disrupted. You use the wrong muscles to push yourself forward in running, and you develop overuse injuries and pain. Studies have linked glute weakness to ankle, knee, back, and even neck injuries.
It is vital to work the glute muscle with hinge motions. It is also essential to distinguish your quad and your hip-dominant movement patterns and include both in your training. Want to increase your glutes’ strength and flexibility without having to go to the gym? Then check out these five effective exercises:
1. Kettlebell deadlift
- Hold a kettlebell with an overhand grip by the handle; it should be hanging at arm’s length in front of your hips with no tension in the arms.
- Push your chest out.
- Keep your abdominals strong and your core tight and engaged.
- You will be doing a hinge, not a squat, and not a stiff leg stretch.
- Set your feet hips’ width apart.
- To hinge, your hips should go back first (bend at the hip), and then the knees bend slightly (you are not squatting).
- Without changing the bend in your knees, bend at your hips and lower your torso. It should feel like you are looking over a ledge.
- Then raise your torso back to the starting position.
- Do not round your lower back. The back should be straight, with a natural arch and packed shoulders.
- If executing with a kettlebell, as illustrated, hold the kettlebell in front of you. Do not try to move it or push it out with your arms.
2. Single leg hip thrust
- Think of yourself as performing a single-leg hip raise.
- You can do this with or without a kettlebell placed on your hip.
- Lie faceup, shoulders elevated on a bench, at the sports bra line with one knee bent and your other leg straight out, elevated in front of you.
- Try to get your elevated leg in line with your thigh.
- Pressing through the heel of the stationary leg, push your hips upward, keeping your right leg elevated.
- Consider this a reverse hinge, and make sure to engage your glutes.
- Pause, and then slowly lower your body and leg back to the starting position.
3. Glute bridge with band abduction
- Place a band around your hips/ knees, forcefully pushing it apart the whole time without allowing the knees to buckle.
- For a hip thrust, elevate your body on a platform like a bench, couch, or chair to add range of motion to this exercise.
- Think of this as a hip raise or a reverse hinge.
- Lie faceup on the floor with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
- Your heels should be pressed into the ground, while your toes can arch up off the ground.
- You should have all of your weight in your heels.
- Place your arms out to your sides.
- Raise your hips, so your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees.
- Continue to push against the floor with your heels, never your toes.
- Drive through your glutes as you lift your hips in a reverse hinge.
- Pause for a few seconds in the up position, then lower your body back down.
4. Kettlebell swing
- With both hands, pick up the kettlebell by the handle and sit back in a hinge, bending first and more deeply at the hips, then at the knees.
- From the hinged position, swing the kettlebell back and behind your knees.
- Swing the kettlebell up to shoulder level with your arms straight as you thrust your hips forward and raise your torso back into the standing position.
- Make sure your butt muscles are engaged by squeezing your glutes together tightly.
- Do not raise the kettlebell with your arms. Your arms and the kettlebell should feel weightless through the entire motion.
- At the top of the swing, remember to keep your arms straight, thrust your hips forward, straighten your knees, and swing the kettlebell no higher than chest level as you rise to a standing position.
- Do not bend back at the top of the motion.
- Continue without stopping back down into your hinge and repeat steps one through four. Create a nonstop fluid motion of the swing with the kettlebell going behind the knees and back up to shoulder level.
5. Split squat
- You can hold a kettlebell chest level in a mid-racked position. You can also hold a Dumbbell or opt to have no weight at all.
- Other hold options are goblet, bottoms-up, racked (single kettlebell with one arm), and double-racked (double kettlebells).
- Use a chair, bench, or your couch and place one leg on that elevation while keeping the other firmly planted.
- Stand in a straight line, with abdominals tight, a strong core, and a straight back.
- Step forward on the ball of your back foot and sink into the heel of the stepping foot.
- Keeping your torso as upright as possible, slowly lower your body as far as you can.
- Your rear knee should nearly touch the floor—it actually can touch the floor if needed.
- Pause, then push yourself back up, driving through the heel of the stepping leg to the starting position as quickly as you can.
Dasha L. Anderson is a celebrated trainer and fitness expert in New York City, with a master’s degree in exercise science and sports nutrition and a specialty in performance enhancement and injury prevention. She is also the founder and head certifying instructor of Kettlebell Kickboxing and has contributed to Self, Shape, Fitness Rx, and Epoch Times.